Home/ News / World/  World's longest Covid-19 mask mandate: This city is scrapping it after 945 days

Hong Kong will lift its mask mandate from 1 March 2023, ending the city's last major restriction imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city's Chief Executive John Lee said the requirement will end outdoors and indoors, including public transit, but some high-risk premises including hospitals and elderly homes can still require people to wear masks.

“From tomorrow we are completely returning to normalcy," Lee said. “This year and the next year, we will focus on the economy and development."

In high risk places such as hospitals, administrators can decide whether to require staff and visitors to wear masks, he said.

The move comes as the government seeks to attract tourists and overseas workers to revitalize the finance hub. Next month will see Hong Kong host the biggest series of international events since often-violent protests in 2019 shut down much of the city, including a music festival, Art Basel and the Rugby Sevens tournament. Hong Kong had dropped most other pandemic restrictions by earlier this year.

"We think this is the best timing to make this decision. It is a clear message to show Hong Kong is resuming normalcy," Lee said.

People have been required to wear masks in all public places, including outdoors, from July 29, 2020. The rule is enforceable by fines of up to HK$10,000 ($1,275), with police regularly handing out HK$5,000 penalties on the spot for transgressors.

Hong Kong had largely followed China's “zero-COVID" strategy over the last three years and used to have some of the world's strictest anti-virus rules. In the last six months, the government has taken bigger steps to open up in an attempt to revive its economy and catch up with its rivals such as Singapore.

Neighbouring special administrative region Macau, said on Feb 26 that it would drop COVID 19-related mask requirements for most locations, except for public transportation, hospitals and a handful of other areas.

-With agency inputs


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Updated: 28 Feb 2023, 12:36 PM IST
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